Purgatory Explained, Part 2, Chapter 62

photograph of the Saint John stained glass window in Saint Joseph's Cathedral, Macon, Georgia, USA, artist unknown; photographed in the summer of 2003Article

Means to Avoid Purgatory – Christian Mortification – Saint John Berchmans – Blessed Emily de Verceil and the Religious who was weary of Choir

The third means of satisfying in this world is the practice of Christian mortification and religious obedience. We bear about in our body the mortification of Jesus, says the Apostle, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies. (2 Cor. 4:10). This mortification of Jesus, which the Christian must bear about in him, is in its broadest sense, the part that he must take in the sufferings of his Divine Master, by bearing in union with Him the trials he may have to encounter in this life, or the suffering which he voluntarily inflicts upon himself. The first and best mortification is that which is attached to our daily duties, the pains we have to take, the effort we must make to acquit ourselves properly of the duties of our state, and to bear the contradictions of each day. When Saint John Berchmans said that his chief mortification was the common life, he said nothing else than this, because for him the common life embraced all the duties of his state.

Moreover, he who sanctifies the duties and sufferings of each day, and who thus practices fundamental mortification, will soon advance, and impose voluntary privations and sufferings upon himself in order to escape the pains of the other life.

The slightest mortifications, the most trifling sacrifice, especially when done through obedience, are of great value in the sight of God.

Blessed Emily, a Dominican, and Prioress of the Monastery of Saint Mary at Vercelli, inspired her Religious with a spirit of perfect obedience in view of Purgatory. One of the points of the Rule prohibited the Religious to drink between meals without express permission of the Superior. Now, the latter, knowing, as we have seen, the value of the sacrifice of a glass of water in the eyes of God, was generally accustomed to refuse this permission, that she might afford her sisters an opportunity to practice an easy mortification, but she sweetened her refusal by telling them to offer their thirst to Jesus, tormented by a cruel thirst upon the Cross. She then advised them to suffer this slight privation with a view of diminishing their torments in the expiatory flames of Purgatory.

There was in her community a sister named Mary Isabella, who was too prone to levity, being fond of conversation and other exterior distractions. The consequence was that she had little relish for prayer, was negligent in reciting the Office, and only acquitted herself of this her chief duty with the greatest repugnance. Thus she was never in any haste to go to choir, and as soon as the office was ended she was the first to go out. One day whilst she was hurrying to leave the choir, she passed by the stall of the Prioress, who stopped her. “Where are you going in such haste, my good sister?” she said to her, “and why are you so anxious to get out before the other sisters?” The sister, taken by surprise, at first observed a respectful silence, then she acknowledged with humility that the Office was wearisome to her and seemed too long. “That is all very well,” replied the Prioress, “but if it costs you so much to chant the praises of God seated comfortably in the midst of your sisters, what will you do in Purgatory, where you will be obliged to remain in the midst of flames? To spare you that terrible trial, my daughter, I order you to leave your place the last of all.” The sister submitted with simplicity, like a truly obedient child; she was recompensed. The disgust which she had experienced thus far for the things of God was changed into devotion and spiritual joy. Moreover, as God revealed to Blessed Emily, having died some time afterwards, she obtained a great diminution of the suffering which awaited her in the other life. God counted as so many hours in Purgatory the hours which she passed in prayer through a spirit of obedience.

MLA Citation